Review: Archer Maclean’s Mercury [PSP]

One of the PSP’s post-launch titles, which ranked highly amongst those buying Ridge Racer and Lumines, has now found its way onto the PlayStation Store for £4.79 / €5.57. The game offers a virtual iteration of the old health-hazard Mercury games, where little playground children would tilt a wooden maze in order to move the surprisingly heavy substance to the exit. Mercury for the PSP goes further than that, in the same way that we’ve seen with recent remakes of such titles as ‘Space Invaders’. You’ll see different gameplay types, realistic physics and nice quirky stand-out graphics.

Mercury fits the handheld gaming genre like a charm. As a simple puzzler, it’s very easy to simply play a few of the seventy-plus levels, and set your PSP to sleep mode when you need to do something. It’s what I found myself often doing as I passed away the time, whipping out the PSP to play a quick five minutes of Mercury – which is what the PSP should be, and what has propelled sales of the opposition DS. At 258 MB, you won’t even notice it on your memory stick. The game is essentially a series of mini puzzles, mostly frustrating, to pass away the time whilst keeping your brain occupied with something other than your PS3 dipped in chocolate.

Its graphics maintain a sense of simple realism in contrast to the game’s cartoon-styled successor “Mercury Meltdown”. The most obvious reason for this is the way the Mercury moves. The way in which the blob splits into smaller lumps when pushed against a corner is very nice, and whilst initially annoying, this ability does come in handy in later stages. You’ll need to know your colour mixing chart off by heart to get around some of the puzzles, which can be frustrating when you have four different coloured blobs of mercury all heading for each other, especially when red and green make yellow. Apparently.

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The biggest downfall of Mercury is its loading times. As a title launched shortly after the PSP’s launch, the system hardware was very new to developers. On the UMD version, you could be waiting from anything up to sixty seconds to move from one level to another, which is particularly slow when you’re on the move. Loading times on the new digital download format are inevitably faster, but still based on the original game. While the graphics may remain very high in quality, the sharpness of the mercury against the surrounding level can often create jagged edges but this is an attribute which taints many PSP games.

Overall, the game will last you a few good hours, and even more-so if you plan on beating yourself on times and the amount of mercury you have by the end of each level. If you think you’ve exhausted the single player, you can hop into ad-hoc mode to play with one other friend. Choose a level, and play them at it. Their mercury will show up as a ghost on your PSP screen, and the single player rules apply. If someone spills all their mercury over the edge, the other player wins, or the first to reach the end in a certain time wins.

For a fiver, this game is definitely worth the money as you’ll be able to easily dip in and out of it like a true portable puzzler. While the game takes a little too long to startup, the colourful nature of the levels, gloopy sound of the mercury and variety of the puzzles makes it clear why the director stuck his name to the front of the title and grabbed a sequel a few years later.

Score: 8/10

Mercury Level

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